Ban Ki-moon kicks off first visit to Sudan
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Sudan today to “lock in progress” made so far to end the crisis in the country's strife-torn Darfur region and observe first-hand the situation on the ground ahead of the deployment of a massive joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping operation.
Mr. Ban's visit comes just weeks after the Security Council authorized a hybrid force, which will have some 26,000 peacekeepers at full deployment, to quell the violence in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have died and more than two million others forced to flee their homes since 2003 because of fighting between rebel groups, Sudanese Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias.
“I want to see for myself the plight of those we seek to help, and the conditions under which our peacekeepers in Darfur will operate,” Mr. Ban told an audience of civil society representatives upon arriving in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
In a speech to the UN Association in Sudan on Monday evening, Mr. Ban outlined the reasons for his visit –which will also include stops in neighboring Chad and Libya – stating that his goal is to “lock in the progress we have made so far. To build on it so that this terrible trauma may one day end.”
Mr. Ban said he also wanted to try to strengthen momentum towards a lasting political resolution. “I want to see us begin a new and conclusive round of peace negotiations as soon as possible,” he stated.
During his visit, the Secretary-General will meet with President Omar al-Bashir and other senior leaders, in addition to First Vice-President Salva Kiir in southern Sudan, and opposition representatives.
He stressed that any real solution to Darfur's troubles requires sustained economic development and solutions that go to the root causes of the conflict. “But we cannot effectively address development issues until there is a peaceful environment in Darfur and a political solution to the conflict,” he added.
With regard to economic and social development, Mr. Ban emphasized the need for money for new roads and communications, as well as health, education, sanitation and social reconstruction programmes. In addition, he stressed that more needs to be done if Sudan is to be on track to meet the set of global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), stating that “there can be no solutions to Sudan's political problems without sustainable economic development.”
“As for human rights, we have only to look around us to see how far Sudan has to go in upholding human rights and protecting people from suffering,” the Secretary-General added.
Noting that justice is an important part of building and sustaining peace, he emphasized that “a culture of impunity and a legacy of past crimes that go unaddressed can only erode the peace.”
Mr. Ban urged those gathered to do their part to ensure an immediate end to violence and a rapid political solution, stating that “ultimately, it is you who will carry forward the work of building a lasting peace in Sudan.”
In addition, “I urge you to think of the United Nations – and me, personally – as your friend, always by your side. I urge you to do everything you can to advance our common cause – building a better Sudan, and a better world, for yourselves and for future generations.”